The Day the Earth Stood Still
dir Scott Derrickson
scr David Scarpa
with Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Kyle Chandler, Robert Knepper, James Hong, John Rothman, Sunita Prasad, Sam Gilroy
release US/UK 12.Dec.08
08/US Fox 1h43
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Earth girls are easy: Connelly and Reeves

bates smith hamm
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Day the Earth Stood Still This remake of the 1951 favourite is oddly botched, trying to combine some timely themes with the structure of a more conventional action thriller. Alas, it simply doesn't work.

Dr Helen Benson (Connelly) specialises in space biology, so when an asteroid is heading for New York, she's forcibly drafted into service, leaving her stepson (Smith) with a neighbour. But it's not an asteroid; it's a space orb bringing intergalactic spokesman Klaatu (Reeves) to explain that he's here to save the earth. Of course, there's a lot to read into that message, and as the US Secretary of Defence (Bates) insists on attacking Klaatu and his orb, it's fairly clear that humanity is the real problem.

The film's sleek, taut style pulls us into a baffling series of events as Helen confronts something far beyond her imagination. But we quickly notice that logic has a small role in this story, as she seems able to emerge from even the most insane crowd scene to find exactly who she needs. Connelly plays this solidly, but can't make us believe in the situations. Her interaction with the well-cast Reeves or the effectively surly Smith is left awkward and unconvincing, since none of them ever actually say what's on their minds. Which kind of leaves the plot spinning its wheels.

This is all clearly part of the effort to keep things mysterious, but the script also obscures Klaatu's message to mankind, dribbling out the facts only when the filmmakers are good and ready. This keeps us at arm's length and makes it impossible to engage with the ill-defined characters or events. It also leaves the rather cool-looking effects shots without much real context. And even worse, it lets the screenwriter indulge in making things up as he goes along, with contrivances, sudden superpowers and a couple of ludicrous turnabouts.

But the most annoying thing is that there's actually a solid movie in here somewhere about how America's arrogant military leaders tend to answer any situation with a bullet and would rather interrogate than converse. But even these themes are lost in a movie that's so painfully po-faced despite essentially being corny hokum.

cert 12 themes, violence 10.Dec.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Day the Earth Stood Still Win, Jakarta: "I just wanna say that this is the worst Hollywood movie I've ever watched." (31.Jul.09)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall